Drawing conclusions: Aspen, ‘Dogs end in tie
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen’s Will Bloemsma broke free behind the Hotchkiss defense and stared down goalkeeper Evan Hansen.
Bloemsma lined up and fired a shot. As the ball sailed harmlessly past the right post in the 15th minute Saturday afternoon at Aspen High School, Bloemsma pounded the turf with his hand.
The frustration would last another 85 tense minutes as both the Skiers and Bulldogs made several bids for scores but came up empty. After two halves and two periods of overtime, the 3A Region 7 tussle ended in a scoreless draw.
While players were left lamenting the missed opportunities after a second half in which the Skiers dominated, head coach Junior Sutherland was encouraged.
“They have some good players who are strong and very skillful,” Sutherland said of the Bulldogs, who beat Aspen, 4-2, during a preseason tournament in Montrose in August. “Hotchkiss is going to beat quite a few teams this year. I’m sure they’ll contend [for the conference title].
“It’s tough to walk away with a tie, but it’s better than a loss. They could’ve snuck a goal in easily.”
One of those golden opportunities came with four minutes to play before the half when forward Caleb Ochs found himself wide open, but his kick sailed high of the crossbar and through the uprights. Seconds later, a Bulldogs midfielder tried to feed Kevin Hernandez with a cross, but the ball flew a few feet out of reach.
Hotchkiss controlled the middle for the bulk of the second 20 minutes, but the Aspen defense and goalkeeper Alex Owen were up for the challenge. During one free kick from 20 yards out, the Bulldogs’ Kasey Sidor fired a grounder that Owen had to sprawl out to turn away.
“I like those [tight games] better, actually,” Owen said. “It makes me pay attention and really keeps me more in the game.”
Owen was tested often during the second half and in extra time. He soared to swat away a corner kick in the 50th minute then, on a breakaway up the right side, he sprinted out of the box, dove and smothered both Sidor and the ball. While he preserved the tie, Owen did sprain his left ankle in the collision.
He stayed in the game, and came up big in the extra frames. He went high to corral two loose balls in the final 20 seconds of the first extra period. One minute earlier, Owen lost sight of the ball in a crowded box during a corner kick, but a Skiers defender alertly knocked it out of harm’s way.
While Owen and the defense kept Aspen in the game, the Skiers made multiple late bids to seal a win. None was bigger than Kyle Lusk’s breakaway up the right side in the 80th minute. His shot bounced off the crossbar, drawing a collective grown from the home crowd.
“I was hoping to God it would go in,” Lusk said. “After those first couple, I wanted it to go in so bad. … We were just unlucky.”
Lusk had another chance inside the box with six minutes remaining in regulation, but the ball sailed wide to the left.
“It’s hard to tie, especially when you play such a good game like that,” Owen said. “But tying them is definitely a step up from the last time. This did give us confidence.”
“We had enough chances to win two or three games,” Sutherland said. “We had five or six in the second that were net bound, but the breaks didn’t go our way. … It will happen.”
He hopes it comes Tuesday in Basalt. The Skiers have scored one goal in their last two games.
“They’ll be up, and we’ll be up,” Sutherland said. “It doesn’t matter what the records are. We’ll all be ready for it.”
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